Family, winery partner to raise funds for women’s sober house

Brooke's House

Photo:  Joe Crocetta/Herald-Mail Media Staff Photographer

SMITHSBURG — First, there was the story of 19-year-old Brooke Simmers, who died of a heroin overdose in April 2015 while battling her addiction.

Nine months later, the story repeated itself, except with another victim.

Mike and Anni Rhule said their 24-year-old daughter, Kristin, had been in recovery from substance abuse for several months.

Then, when Winter Storm Jonas struck the Tri-State area in January, Kristin ended up in a motel north of Hagerstown, where heroin was about to claim another victim, according to her parents.

“She knew somebody there that had it,” Anni Rhule said Sunday at a Smithsburg-area winery during a fundraiser for a sober house for women.

Kristin overdosed on heroin and was transported to Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown, her parents said. Doctors were unable to revive her.

Eventually, Mike Rhule started reading about the efforts of former Hagerstown Police Department officer Kevin Simmers, father of Brooke Simmers.

Brooke Simmers waged an ongoing battle against heroin addiction and stated at one point that she wanted to open a sober house in the county to help women overcome addiction.

Brooke died of an overdose before she could see her dream come true, so her dad stepped in to make it a reality.

Kevin Simmers has been raising money for Brooke’s House, which will be built to care for 16 women. Plans are for the house to have eight bedrooms, each of which will serve two women.

Mike Rhule said when he started reading the story about Brooke Simmers, it was like he was reading about his own daughter’s death.

“I’m living this,” said Rhule, recalling how he felt at the time. “I need to reach out to this guy,” he thought.

Rhule did, and so started the formation of another fundraiser for Brooke’s House. The Rhules partnered with Kevin and Yvonne Ford, owners of Red Heifer Winery near Smithsburg, to have a fundraiser there.

The work came to fruition Sunday at the winery when dozens of people showed up for an afternoon of wine, live music and food at the site off Raven Rock Road north of Smithsburg.

 More than 50 people were spread across the grass on the steep hillside of the winery while bands like Josh Morningstar and the Pickups performed during Kristin’s Cause for Brooke’s House. Guests paid $30 per ticket, $20 of which went to Brooke’s House. Organizers hoped to raise up to $10,000.

Individuals also donated items for a silent auction.

During the fundraiser, the Rhules announced that a foundation decided to give $50,000 to Brooke’s House. Anni Rhule said the money will come from the Shockey Family Foundation, which was established by her grandmother and grandfather. The foundation, which has supported various endeavors, will make the money available in January, she said.

Simmers said afterward that the announcement was a surprise. He was grateful, saying it is a way to turn the deaths of the two women into “something positive.”

Simmers said his goal is to raise $500,000. He said Sunday that about $150,000 has been raised, which does not include the Shockey Family Foundation award.

Simmers said he has a potential site for Brooke’s House in the area of Hagerstown’s South End.

Story by Dave McMillion – Staff Writer – Herald-Mail Media.

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